How To Get Somebody to Listen to You



One of the greatest insights in the field of motivation is this:

Satisfied needs do not motivate.

Only unsatisfied needs do.

If somebody does not feel heard, they won’t listen to you.  They’ll be motivated to get some “psychological air.”  Once you’ve met that need, it’s no longer a motivation.

So, if you want somebody to listen to you, you need to first give the other person some psychological air.  Listen until the other person feels understood, affirmed, validated, and appreciated.

You can do so through empathic listening.  Once the other person has their psychological air, they’ll be ready, willing, and more able to listen to you.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about how only unsatisfied needs motivate, and the best way to give somebody psychological air is with empathic listening.

Only Unsatisfied Needs Motivate

Once we’ve got what we need, it no longer motivates us.

Via The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“If all the air were suddenly sucked out of the room you’re in right now, what would happen to your interest in this book? You wouldn’t care about the book; you wouldn’t care about anything except getting air.  Survival would be your only motivation.  But now that you have air, it doesn’t motivate you.  This is one of the greatest insights in the field of human motivation: Satisfied needs to not motivate.  It’s only the unsatisfied need that motivates”

Psychological Survival is the Greatest Need Next to Physical Survival

People need to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Via The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival – to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”

Listen with Empathy to Give Psychological Air

Give them air, before you try to influence or problem solve.  Listen with your head, hearts and eyes until the other person *feels* heard.

Via The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air.  And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.””  This need for psychological air impacts communication in every area of life.”

If you want somebody to listen to you, the answer is simple:

Listen until the other person feels heard.

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Image by Sara Harvey.


  1. “Satisfied needs do not motivate.
    Only unsatisfied needs do.”

    Thought-Provoking!. If something is SATISFIED, then NEED dies and no motivation required.Unsatisfied on something give birth to NEED So it is the need that drives the motivation.

    Is there any smart way to know what we need actually instead of what we are up to currently?

    • Hey Mohan

      Once you pay attention to it, you’ll notice it in how people speak, and the words they use.

      One of the best tools I know here is Dr. Richard Kirschner’s 4 Communication Needs:

      1. Action – get to the point (“cut to the chase”.)
      2. Accuracy – speak indirectly and give the details
      3. Approval – speak in a friendly, indirect, and considerate way (use relationship language, like ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘you and me’, and ‘the team’.)
      4. Appreciation – speak directly, with energy and enthusiasm (create a spotlight effect.)

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